Talbot County’s foster parents are stepping up to the plate in helping Maryland’s foster children have safe and loving homes when their lives have been disrupted Many of these children come from other counties across Maryland and are facing a variety of challenges.
According to Paris Quillet, Special Projects Coordinator for the Talbot County Department of Social Services, approximately 73 percent of the children placed in Talbot County Resource Homes are children from other local departments across the state.
“We are focused on caring for children and supporting both resource parents, birth parents, and our sister agencies,” states Linda Webb, Director of Talbot County Department of Social Services. “We all work together to provide a safe and loving environment for each child for as long as it is needed.”
Jess Flaherty of Easton is a mother of five children; four are her biological children, and one of them has Down’s Syndrome. She and her husband adopted a daughter from Carroll County who has Cerebral Palsy, is blind, and is tube-fed. They hope to adopt another daughter who is currently in foster care from Allegany County and who has a rare form of epilepsy.
“Talbot County is always trying to match foster children to the best families to get the best fit for the children,” Flaherty comments.
“In particular, there is a need for foster parents for special needs and medically fragile children across the state. Talbot County’s foster parents have always been willing to take children from other counties to help meet the needs of children regardless of what county they originate in,” Quillet adds.
To stay encouraged, Flaherty relies on other foster parents who are called to do the same thing to provide support. In addition, when caring for a particularly difficult case, she will ask her social worker to give the family space for things to settle down before they are available to help more children.
“It is rewarding to work with professionals who want to do the right thing and who respect your boundaries. It is a collective effort to meet the ideal care for these children,” she adds. “Talbot DSS advocates for me when I have a child from another county and helps facilitate the communication and care even though I am working with social workers in other counties.”
Jeanne and Jeff Scharf of Ridgely, who have been foster parents since 1998, have four biological children and have adopted six foster children. The family’s children range in age from 10 to 32. The Scharf’s oldest son was a “Special Delivery” from Baltimore County and became family in 2005. Recently, the Scharfs had an 11-year-old foster child from a different county who had been with them before.
“We try and empathize with kids no matter where they are from and try and figure out a commonality we share. We are trying to put tools in their toolboxes that they can use the rest of their lives whether they are in our home or not,” Jeanne Scharf states.
“Our goal with respite and short-term placements is to keep children safe before they go with their next placement.”
Jeanne and Jeff are a spiritual couple and believe that there are higher reasons for children being placed with them. “We believe that there is something God wants us to teach these children or things for them to teach us,” she adds.
Jeanne’s passion for foster care comes from her childhood living with a father who had mental health issues. She shares that she and her siblings should have been in foster care for the complex trauma of that experience. She credits the care of her grandmother and aunts in helping the family survive it.
“I keep doing this because if we can instill in our children their worth, not just for a moment, but for the rest of their lives – they will have the strength and courage to move forward in life,” Scharf reflects.
According to Jeanne Scharf and Jess Flaherty, who have become supports for one another through their foster parent journeys, “There are still so many children out there hurting and there need to be people bridging the gap like foster parents.”
Talbot County continues to need more foster and adoptive parents to help meet the needs of children of all ages, most recently including infants and school-aged children. The agency also gets requests from time to time for sibling groups and older teens who are soon aging out of foster care and need guidance in transitioning into adulthood. For further information on becoming a foster or adoptive parent, call the Talbot County Department of Social Services at 410-820-7371 or visit midshoreresourceparents.com.
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